Students perform better when taking courses that explore race

January 14, 2016

Stanford researchers have found that at-risk students’ academic performance rose dramatically after being enrolled in classes that explore race and ethnicity.

The study followed the academic progress of 1,400 “at-risk” ninth grade students from three different high schools in San Francisco over the course of an academic year. Here, “at-risk” was defined as a student whose grade point averages were below 2.0 at the end of their second semester of the eighth grade.

Not only did the students enrolled in the race-conscious classes GPAs improve by more than one letter grade, attendance rates increased by about 21%. Students who didn’t take the ethnic studies course didn’t see any remarkable increase in GPA over the same time period.

“I was surprised that this particular course could have such dramatic effects on the academic outcomes of at-risk kids,” Professor Thomas S. Dee, one of the study’s co-authors, told The Guardian. “If I was reading a newspaper with results like this, I would read it with incredulity, [but] the results were very robust.”